Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mother Goose Goes Hollywood

Here is another cartoon that has Zasu Pitts and Mae West characters appearing together. Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and many other familiar faces can also be seen as cartoon characters in this story.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mother Goose Goes Hollywood is an 1938 Walt Disney animated short featuring parodies of Mother Goose nursery rhymes and caricatures of Hollywood celebrities from the 1930s. It is the 73rd of the series. The cartoon is directed by Wilfred Jackson, and animated by Bill Tytla and Ward Kimball. It can be found in disc 2 of More Silly Symphonies in the Walt Disney Treasures, released in 2006.


The film begins with a nursery book that opens by itself. In a parody of Leo the Lion (MGM) logo Mother Goose roars like a lion. Underneath the goose is written, in Pig Latin, Nertz to You. The opening disclaimer states that "any resemblance to characters herein portrayed to persons living or dead, is purely coincidental". Little Bo Peep (Katharine Hepburn) claims she "really lost her sheep, really I have". After performing a few ballet steps she looks behind the next page of the book, which is turned around.
The next scene shows Old King Cole (Hugh Herbert) excited when his fiddlers arrive: (The Marx Brothers). The trio starts playing their violins, but then break them over their knees. The king enjoys this very much, but his court jester (Ned Sparks) obviously not. The king commends their entertainment, calling it "Over the hedge". Then Joe Penner brings the king a bowl and, in reference to his famous catch phrase, asks him if he "wants to buy a duck?" Donald Duck appears out of the water in the bowl and starts laughing with Penner's joke. The king then closes the bowl, much to the chagrin of Donald.
On the following page the nursery rhyme Rub-a-dub-dub is portrayed with Charles Laughton (as Captain Bligh), Spencer Tracy (as Manuel Fidello from Captains Courageous (film)) and Freddie Bartholomew (who also appeared in Captains Courageous). Bartholomew falls overboard, but Tracy pulls him back aboard. Then Katharine Hepburn passes by on a outboard motor still looking for her sheep. The tub overturns when the trio tries to hitch a ride with Hepburn.
W. C. Fields plays Humpty Dumpty. He inspects a bird's nest with the words, "My Little Chickadee", but discovers Charlie McCarthy sitting in it. He insults Fields who tries to attack him, but then falls off the wall unto a mushroom which then resembles a egg cup.
Simple Simon (Stan Laurel) is seen fishing with a fish on his hook and catching worms instead of the other way around. The Pieman (Oliver Hardy) is busy tending a pile of his pies on a wagon. Laurel refuses an offered pie, and picks one from the middle of the pile, which scares Hardy, fearing the pile will collapse. Nothing happens, however and a reassured Hardy tries to do the same. When the pile collapses and one of the pies lands on his head, he looks angrily at Laurel. Laurel swallows his pie in one piece and then snickers at Hardy. Hardy throws one of his pies at Laurel, who ducks, and the pie lands in the face of Katharine Hepburn. The pie transforms her face into a blackface and she starts speaking in African-American slang.
See Saw Margery Daw is performed by Edward G. Robinson and Greta Garbo on a seesaw. Garbo says: "I want so much to be alone", to which Robinson replies: "O.K., babe, you asked for it!". He leaves and Garbo falls off the see saw.
Little Jack Horner (Eddie Cantor) opens the next scene, a big musical sequence. He sings Sing a Song of Sixpence and when he mentions the line, "twenty black birds baking a pie" several Afro-American jazz and swing musicians stick their head out of a large pie. One of them is Cab Calloway (singing "Hi-de-Ho!") who invites Little Boy Blue (Wallace Beery) to blow his horn. When this takes some time, Fats Waller asks: "Where's that boy?", to which Stepin Fetchit replies: "What boy?". Beery finally wakes up and blows his horn until he's out of breath.
The book pops open to reveal a big shoe (a reference to There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe) and all the characters start singing, dancing and playing instruments. The camera zooms in on three trumpet playing ladies (Edna May Oliver, Joan Blondell (some sources claim the middle woman is Mae West or Sophie Tucker) and ZaSu Pitts), a flute player (Clark Gable) and a saxophonist (George Arliss). Oliver Hardy plays trombone and Stan Laurel clarinet, whose repeated notes annoy Hardy so much he hits Laurel over the head with a hammer. Laurel's clarinet then sounds like a bass clarinet.
Fats Waller plays piano until Groucho and Chico start playing with him. He sends them away, but discovers that his piano now plays by himself. When he looks inside, Harpo is seen plucking the strings. He exclaims: "The man's crazy!". Fred Astaire tap dances and invites Stepin Fetchit to dance along with him. Fetchit tries to encourage his feet, but he is too lazy, and his feet release steam from the effort. Cab Calloway is much more excited and energetic and sings and dances along with his band. W.C. Fields plays double bass with Charlie McCarthy sitting on the instrument. Charles Laughton declares the music to be "It's mutiny, but I like it!". Martha Raye and Joe E. Brown are seen dancing and laughing so loud that their mouths are opened wide. When Raye kisses Joe E. Brown (leaving a large lipstick smear) his mouth opens so wide that the camera tracks inside. There, Katharine Hepburn is still looking for her sheep.

Cultural references


Since the 1960s this cartoon has not been broadcast very often on television, due to the stereotypical depictions of African Americans in some scenes. Sometimes it has been broadcast minus the scenes with African Americans. Only a few scenes however can be considered racially offensive. First of all, Hepburn being hit in the face with a pie, which makes her resemble a black face singer speaking in stereotypical African American slang. Secondly the comparison between blackbirds and African-Americans by Cantor, and thirdly the caricature of Stepin Fetchit, whose lazy, dimwitted behavior may offend contemporary viewers who might not know the actor and his typical movie roles.
As animation critic Charles Solomon noted in his book: "Enchanted Drawings: History of Animation", the caricatures of Fats Waller and Cab Calloway don't poke fun at their race and are treated just as good or bad like the other caricatured celebrities spoofed in this cartoon.

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Scenes from the cartoon:

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This character has also been identified as Joan Blondell and here is a comparison. But the animators used to like drawing Mae West and she became a recurring character, so I'd say that was who it was, even though Joan Blondell was a similar type. Of course, Zasu Pitts was in the movie DAMES with Joan Blondell and they could have been thinking of Joan Blondell to begin with. They could also have been thinking of Thelma Todd at some point since Zasu Pitts had been teamed with her in their own series.

W.C. Fields as Humpty-Dumpty in the 1933 live-action ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

W.C. Fields began working with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy on the radio, but they also appeared together in the 1939 movie YOU CAN'T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN.

Edgar Bergen with Charlie McCarthy and W.C. Fields, NBC radio.

YOU CAN'T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN, but you might be able to give him a hotfoot when he isn't looking.

W.C.Fields Fan Club:

Official site for Mae West:

                                                                  Laurel and Hardy:

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